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The dynamics of collective action and women’s agency: A study of coffee farmers’ cooperative in Western Uganda’s highlands


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Main topic



Though historically cooperatives in Africa have their origins in foreign models that were largely designed to achieve colonial extraction motives, during the past two decades cooperatives have become one of the omnipresent forms of economic and social organisation for poverty alleviation in many African countries.


However, the impact of cooperation on the household level, where the driving forces behind change materialize largely, remains terra incognita. As many of these group-based programs target women, an important research question is whether program participation has a significant effect on female agency over time. In other words, how does socio-economic empowerment through collective and group dynamics  engender new behavior (e.g. later and ‘love’ marriage) and subsequently influence women's agency on the household level where the driving forces behind change materialize? Can we observe systematic differences in female empowerment between participants that have been members for a longer period than others?


More in particular, the focus is on gender-related issues such as fertility, domestic violence, spousal age gaps, income pooling, and investment into human capital of children. The study aims at investigating the above mentioned variables among a female-dominated, 3,800 member bottom-up, microfinance, and coffee marketing cooperative in Western Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains. Finally, material on the Ugandan cooperative movement between 1930-1980 are documented in the former colonial Toro District Archive which allows to explore the development of the latter and predict the survival chances of cooperatives today on the basis of what we know back in the past.


  • Field work
  • Creating database
  • Archival research
  • Publications


  • Mountains of the Moon University: Felix Meier zu Selhausen MSc
  • Utrecht University: Prof. Dr. Jan Luiten van Zanden, Prof. Dr. Erik Stam, Dr. Tine de Moor

Funding body



Felix Meier zu Selhausen MSc

Contact details

Felix Meier zu Selhausen

Mountains of the Moon University

Department of Banking and Microfinance

P.O. Box 837 Fort Portal, Uganda


Links to project


> Case study on the Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Microfinance Society Ltd.